It took longer than he would have liked, but Jakeem Grant is feeling like his old self again. And that’s great news for him and for the Dolphins.
The four-year receiver/returner showed off his big-play ability again in the game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday with his record-breaking 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
But it’s more than that for Grant, who added a second touchdown on a 7-yard run after taking a handoff from Kalen Ballage out of the Wildcat formation and later had a 49-yard kickoff return. Grant feels like he’s got his game back.
“It’s been a long journey and now I’m back healthy and I’m back to trusting myself and that confidence level is at an all-time high,” Grant said during his interview on The Audible. “The route running and trusting my hands are just at an all-time high. I went day in and day out trying to go in there and perfect my craft and watching a lot of film (to see), what am I doing wrong? What is this and that? It was just focus and just staying on top of the details that Coach Karl (wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell) teaches us at practice. With that being said, I go in every game and treat it just like I’m at practice running every route, every breaking point and catching the ball, looking it in just like as if I’m at practice.”
Grant had three receptions against Buffalo, giving him 19 on the season. He needs two more catches to establish a new career high.
His kickoff return average is back up to 25.1, which would stand as his second-best since joining the Dolphins as a sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft.
But Grant had really high expectations heading into the season, thinking he would pick up where he left off in 2018 when his breakout year was interrupted by a leg injury halfway through.
Things, however, didn’t play out that way for Grant, who needed some time to regain his form and battled through some inconsistency early in 2019.
“I was just coming off an injury, my first injury to be exact,” Grant said. “(I was) fighting back and trying to get back in to practice, telling Coach, I’m still going to be the same guy where I left off, so I got started, I went out there, I muffed two punts and I’m thinking in my head, man, come on, this can’t happen. Then I dropped a touchdown ball and I’m like, man, what is going on? So I just got back to the basics. Just think about all the things, all the techniques and all the things that got me here and just start honing in on those and perfecting my craft. Week after week and day after day, I just continued to go out there and push myself and perfect those things so I could be ready for a big-play moment.”
That big-play moment came against Buffalo when he came up with his franchise-record fourth career kick return for a touchdown, breaking the mark he shared with Mercury Morris, Freddie Solomon and Ted Ginn Jr.
The touchdown, the second on a kickoff return for Grant to go along with two punt returns, came late in the second quarter after Buffalo had scored to take a 23-7 lead.
“Our coach was telling me play heels on the goal line just to make sure to get good field position because at that time there was only 1:20 left on the clock,” Grant said. “In my mind, I was like, we need a big play right here. So without a doubt I was like, I’m not going to let this one go over my head or kneel this one. I just had to trust in my kickoff return unit and my teammates and made it around to the right side and I had great blocking by Clive (Walford), Walt Aikens and a lot of guys that are on that unit. So once passed to the second level and I look and I see it’s just me and the kicker, I was like, uh-oh.
“If I don’t beat the kicker and he tackles me, one, that’s a fine, have to pay it to probably everybody on the team and then it just goes down on our special teams unit too. Man, it was awesome. Words can’t describe how I feel about getting in the end zone.”
Grant’s touchdown run came on a second consecutive Wildcat play, immediately after Ballage had gained 7 yards after keeping the ball.
“When they called it, I told Kalen, either me or you are going to score right here,” Grant said. “When Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) called it in the huddle, I was like, here we go, get in the end zone. And then he told us he was going to run it again if we don’t score. Kalen told me, ‘I’m handing it off to you no matter what, so run as fast as you can.’ So when he did that, I was like, OK.”
Grant indeed ran fast because, well, he always runs fast.
He got to the end zone barely getting touched.
Just like that, Grant had his second two-touchdown game with the Dolphins. It provided another piece of evidence that, yes, Jakeem Grant is back.